Last Updated on 17 June 2021
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Where are the prettiest places in Scotland?
If you are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and reconnect with nature, then you must visit Scotland. The land of breweries, tartan, shortbread, and Haggis, the Scottish Highlands are one of the natural wonders of Europe which are bound to captivate your imagination! One of the most unique places to visit in Europe, the Scottish Highlands has an abundance of picturesque towns and places of outstanding natural beauty, that it can be overwhelming when trying to pick where to go first! So to help you plan your next trip, here are 9 of the absolute prettiest places in Scotland which you must not miss!
Tip: Road trips are the ideal way to discover Scotland, and what better way to do this than in the freedom of a campervan? Be sure to check out this 7 day motorhome itinerary for Scotland to help you plan yours!
1. The Cairngorms National Park
At a whopping 4,500 square kilometers, the Cairngorms is the largest national park in the UK. It’s a place where mountains, lochs, rivers, forests and wildlife are aplenty, and luscious landscapes surround you everywhere you look. The Cairngorms National Park is home to some of the highest peaks in Scotland, and has a whole network of meandering woodland paths, making it a place to go if you are looking to truly reconnect with nature. And the array of outdoor activities on offer such as white water rafting, skiing and dog-sledding makes it a paradise for adrenaline junkies too!
Tip: Nestled deep within the Cairngorms, Loch Morlich and Loch Garten are two of the prettiest places in Scotland. Both are surrounded by ancient forests and walking trails, making them good places to start your journey of Highland discovery!
2. Glen Coe – one of the absolute prettiest places in Scotland!
Glen Coe is one of the most popular beauty spots in Scotland, and with good reason. Stretching from Loch Leven to Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe is a steep-sided glen with scenery that is nothing less than awe-inspiring! It has served as the set for many well known films, such as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Rob Roy, and James Bond’s Skyfall, amongst various others!
The absolute best way to see Glen Coe is by road. The A82 which passes through Glen Coe makes for one of the most scenic drives in Scotland, and meanders around the bases of volcanic-formed mountains, alongside fast-flowing rivers, and past remote crofters cottages! As you head towards Rannoch Moor, wide open spaces featuring boggy land and rocky outcrops will begin to unravel for miles. And if you allow your imagination to run wild, then driving through Glen Coe will transport you back to times gone by when Highland Clans ruled the land.
Tip: There are plenty of parking areas in Glen Coe where you can pull over for photos or to stop and enjoy the unrivalled scenery. But don’t be surprised at just how busy it can get, especially in peak season. You might need to keep driving to the next available pull-in!
3. Loch Ness and Fort Augustus
A list of the prettiest places in Scotland wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Loch Ness and the popular hamlet of Fort Augustus now, would it? Built around the Caledonian Canal at the point where it empties out into Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is a busy little place where people stop en route to wherever they’re going! The Caledonian Canal makes the settlement one of the most picturesque places in Scotland, especially when looking down towards Loch Ness from one of the lock gates.
The Loch Ness viewpoint situated at the end of the Caledonian Canal provides stunning vistas over Nessie’s homeland, and there is also a small gravely beach where you can paddle in its waters! But one of the best ways to view the Loch is by road, along the A82 from Fort Augustus to the charming village of Drumnadrochit! Along this route, there are various laybys for photo opportunities, and you’ll be presented with the most stunning views from various vantage points along the way!
4. The quaint village of Invermoriston
Invermoriston is a quaint settlement located a stones throw from Loch Ness, in between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. Situated around the River Moriston, one of the main reasons people stop here is to see Invermoriston Falls. Invermoriston makes for a very pleasant place for a leg stretch when driving around the edge of Loch Ness, given the woodland walks that sit adjacent to the River Moriston. And it’s serene riverside location makes it one of the prettiest places to visit in Scotland!
But there are other reasons to stop in Invermoriston aside from its charming falls! Firstly, you’ll find the quaint Clog and Craft Shop here which stocks unique artisan items, such as clogs, leather products, and beautiful Celtic jewellery. The Clog and Craft Shop is a welcome break from the standard tourist shops you’ll find in places like Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit, and is somewhere you’ll be able to find a unique item that can forever be a keepsake from your trip to Scotland! And secondly, there is (usually) Highland Cattle in the field adjacent to Invermoriston Village Hall Car Park!
Tip: Parking is available in the Village Hall Car Park, where there are also toilets. Invermoriston is a tiddly little place, so its super easy to walk in between all the points of interest noted above!
5. The Highland town of Ullapool
If you’re looking for one of prettiest towns in Scotland, then Ullapool should be placed firmly near the top of your bucket list for the Highlands! Located on the northwest coast of Scotland which has in recent years become world-renowned for the North Coast 500 (otherwise known as the NC500 or Route 66 of Scotland), Ullapool is a fishing and port town with connections to the Scottish islands. And being situated on the banks of Loch Broom and surrounded by high peaks, it is one of the most scenic places in Scotland!
There is an abundance of vacation rentals on offer in Ullapool, and its amenities and location makes it the perfect base for further exploration of the Highlands! As is common place across the Highlands of Scotland, there are many walking routes around Ullapool which offer spectacular coastal, loch and mountain views. And like any good old traditional UK seaside town, Ullapool has some great Fish and Chip shops from which you can grab your supper. The most obvious place to enjoy these is perched on the wall of the esplanade whilst the sunsets over the sea loch (look out for the seals too)!
Tip: If you’re planning a campervan road trip around Scotland and want to visit Ullapool as part of your itinerary, make sure you book your campsites in advance. Being situated on the NC500 makes it a popular little place, and you don’t want to miss out!
6. Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve
A short drive north of Ullapool is Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve. And a visit here is one of the best things to do in Scotland for those with a passion for geology. Knockan Crag is the site of 500 million years of history and continental drift. But it’s also home to one mystery which once baffled geologists of the 19th century all around the world – there is old rock sitting on top of much younger layers. After extensive research, it became the first site where renowned geologists of the time, Peach and Horne, began to understand thrust tectonics.
But geology aside, don’t be deterred from stopping at Knockan Crag if rocks aren’t your thing – the sheer beauty of the area makes it worthy of a visit in itself! There are mountainside trails of varying difficulty which start at the visitor centre of Knockan Crag from which Highland scenery can be enjoyed as far as the eye can see. And the parking area (with toilets) located on the A835 gives you no reason not to pay this stunning place a visit!
7. Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve
Located in the northwest Highland area of Wester Ross, Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve covers a vast 48 square kilometers and was Britain’s first National Nature Reserve. Just a hop, skip and jump away from the mountain village of Kinlochewe, Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve is the epitome of serenity. Stretching from the shores of Loch Maree right down to the hills of Glen Torridon, Beinn Eighe is abundant with ancient woodland, mountains, and Highland wildlife, such as pine martens, golden eagles, red deer and crossbills.
One of the best places to start exploring Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve is from Coille na Glas-Leitir car park. Located on the shores of Loch Maree which is one of the prettiest places to see in Scotland, there are signposted walking trails that can be started from here. If you aren’t in the market for a mountain hike, then you should enjoy the easy trail that leads you around the pinewood at the base of the mountainside. But if you like challenges and want to trek up the mountainside in pursuit of spectacular views, then take the more difficult ~6km mountain trail!
Tip: Spring makes for a beautiful time to visit Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve when the undergrowth begins to change colour.
8. Ardvreck Castle and Loch Assynt
Located in the north of Scotland, Loch Assynt is situated in the remote wilderness of Sutherland and is best known for the ruins of Ardvreck Castle which cling to its shores. Ardvreck Castle dates back to the 15th century when the MacLeods of Assynt owned the land. In 1672, the MacKenzies of Assynt invaded and took hold of Ardvreck Castle, replacing it with Calda House nearby – a more contemporary residence located next to the present day A837 road. But it’s the dramatic and rural position of Ardvreck Castle that makes it one of the prettiest places to visit in Scotland!
9. Gairloch Beach on the northwest coast
Who’d have thought that Scotland would be home to some of the most beautiful sandy beaches in Europe? Located on the northwest coast of Scotland and forming part of the famous NC500 route, Gairloch is a small coastal village which boasts one of the best beaches in Scotland. And the scenery surrounding Gairloch beach is just jaw-dropping – think mountains which gradually melt into the coastline, patches of rugged rocky coast, and views of the Isle of Skye on clear blue days! The tranquility of the golden sandy beach in itself makes Gairloch one of the best places to visit in the Highlands, but combined with the enchanting scenery which surrounds means it is indisputably one of the prettiest places in Scotland!